The Fairy Castle of Princess Callia was stolen from the palace in the chaos following the death of bloody Emperor Sentatian. It has since appeared in the collections of noblemen and merchants, but is not generally considered to be politically significant. Among the noble families that trace their ancestry back to the Imperial period, it is associated with the innocent Princess Callia, rather than her capricious father.
It had been decreed by bloodthirsty Emperor Sentatian that Princess Callia’s birthday would be a joyous celebration, so the courtiers had loyally gathered in the great dining hall. Their mandatory cheers and applause echoed through the chamber as two strong slaves carried in the massive gift. Shrouded with a rich scarlet cloth, the present towered nearly as tall as the corpulent Emperor beside it.
They made an odd pair, the capricious tyrant and his tiny daughter. A sweet child, completely unlike her despotic father, each of the courtiers doted on her. Even the arrogant Court Astrologer, Magnus Magisterius, was charmed by her sweet nature. As the child pulled the presents cover off, revealing a huge fairy castle, the innocent girl’s squeal of delight was lost among the compulsory applause of the impressed courtiers.
The Castle was a masterpiece of color and artistry, filled with delicately-carven furniture and tiny winged knights, ladies, and children. No one could miss that the tiny fairy king bore a distinct resemblance to the bloodthirsty Emperor.
"Sweet Callia," exclaimed the gleeful Emperor, "Master Magnus built this doll castle with lots of secret surprises! Later, when were alone, Ill show them to you!"
Standing beside him, the astrologer smiled down indulgently at the Princess.
The Beautiful Castle
The Fairy Castle of Princess Callia is crafted of intricately carven wood, its paint chipped and worn. Where once its colors were bright and detailed patterns covered every surface, centuries of neglect and haphazard restoration have left it somewhat shabby. The structure’s ancient gilt detailing is worn and scratched in spots, and most of the tiny golden cressets and door handles have vanished, broken off or stolen. Hundreds of tiny bezels glitter on the castle’s surfaces, but the gemstones they once held vanished long ago.
The spires and turrets of this massive doll castle reach nearly six feet from the ground, but a stepstool carved into the form of a gatehouse allowed even the tiny Princess to reach the upper floors. Unfortunately, this stool is another casualty of the ages, so the lower floors show the wear of tiny feet that clambered up to reach the top stories. This didn’t seriously damage the castle, for its original designers anticipated such use, building sturdy footholds among the lower levels.
A few of the original fairy knights and ladies remain within, along with the detailed furniture that filled the castle, but most of the tiny tapestries and carpets have gone missing or been damaged. A few items have been added, crudely shaped and oddly discordant among the elegant remnants of the original set.
The Fairy Castle has dozens of little surprises, ones that would delight a child. Walls pivot to expose secret rooms, hidden compartments hold various childish treasures, little chandeliers crank down or up and away from sight, furniture can be flipped upside down to become something different, and tiny phrases written upon the walls in elegant script give the command words to turn on tiny magical lights and animations. The figures in the ballroom can be made to magically dance, the tiny musicians play several tinny-sounding tunes, and the carven animals roar and caper briefly.
Door to the Fairy Kingdom
It isn’t apparent, even to close inspection, but the Fairy Castle holds a potent magical secret: It contains a portal to an extensive extra-dimensional space. When a pair of secret catches is pressed firmly, the entire interior of the castle comes loose and pivots open, calling into existence a small (2 foot by 4 foot) doorway hidden within. Before the latches are unfastened, little windows and doorways lead from the Fairy Castle’s interior chambers to the balconies and parapets on the outside, apparently through the space that this door would occupy: The tiny carven portal radiates a powerful dweomer as it appears.
Very few of the castle’s owners in the centuries since Sentatian’s fall have discovered this cunningly-hidden doorway. Many have found the castle’s more mundane secret compartments, but without suspecting its existence, they were unable to unearth the castle’s deeper secret. As one of the hidden catches is concealed within the chimney of the kitchen’s tiny fireplace and the other is the seat of the tiny throne, they are difficult to detect. Each button, pressed singly, opens up one of the castle’s secret compartments, so accidental discovery of the portal is very unlikely.
The tiny door is intricately detailed, like everything else within the castle, but it has not been damaged by the centuries since the house’s creation. Fanciful carvings of fairies and flowers cover the sweetly-scented apple wood of the door. Its lock, while once considered sophisticated, is one that any skilled thief could easily foil.
As one opens the doorway, the first thing detected is a rank odor, like that of a tomb or ancient basement. While the extra-dimensional chambers beyond have been protected from many things, time and humidity have gradually decayed many of the objects within, slowly eating away at the elegant furnishings and intricate toys that fill the chambers.
The Fairy Castle will remain open as long as the door is kept open, but will close if the portal is shut. Someone attempting to open the door from within will automatically cause the castle to open again.
A series of chambers waits beyond the door: Play rooms, once elegantly appointed, but now filled with mildewed toys and rotting furniture, a kitchen stocked with dried and preserved foods (now withered and moldy husks), a child’s bedroom, several closets (filled with children’s clothing and toys), a small garderobe, and a bathing chamber.
Tiny pinpoints of light dance through the chambers, giving a perpetual twilight. These points of magical illumination swirl and eddy as anyone walks through the rooms, lending an eerie ambiance. In the dancing light, the discolored and mildewed hangings that cover the walls seem to sway and shift ominously. Where once they depicted fanciful monsters and fairies dancing with nymphs in forest glades, now the creatures displayed on the stained and moldy tapestries appear leprous or undead. The walls and ceilings are covered with overlapping circles of fungal growth, forming strange and chaotic patterns almost resembling writing in places.
A small sculpture of a nymph blowing kisses was originally designed to magically blow fresh air into the chambers. Unfortunately, Callia covered the sculpture with a heavy blanket many centuries ago, obstructing its ability to ventilate the area. That, along with the warm, magically-refreshed water of the perpetually-filled tub in the bathing chamber, is responsible for the decay and the pervasive humidity that has degraded these rooms so badly.
These magical chambers were intended to form a nearly undetectable magical bolt-hole for young Callia, should one of the periodic rebellions against her despotic father reach the palace. It was envisioned that she would take shelter there with one of the few servants trusted by her tyrannical father. The arrogant tyrant never anticipated that he would be killed himself, but expected that he would always be able to protect his little girl.
The Deeper Secret
The Emperor felt positively jovial after the stellar success of his daughter’s party. Despite this, a few details nagged at him, concerns that needed to be eliminated. Fortunately, Magnus, his Court Astrologer, had arrived at his summons, bearing a surprisingly good bottle of cherry wine.
"Magnus, have the magi that helped you enchant the Fairy Castle been properly cared for? Some of them seemed a bit unhappy with the requirements you had placed on them."
The eccentric astrologer poured a cup of wine for his Emperor and nodded in agreement. "You are absolutely right, Majesty. The mages that assisted on your daughter’s castle couldn’t be trusted. Fortunately, I took care to select only those whose stars were in decline, so that their deaths were predestined: After all, I couldn’t take the chance of allowing such men to live. Your daughter’s safety demanded that they be eliminated."
Emperor Sentatian smiled contentedly as he sipped at his goblet. He had been wise to entrust Magnus with the project. No other advisor could anticipate his needs so well.
Beyond the enchanted chambers designed for the Princess, the Emperor had several additional chambers constructed for his own requirements. Sealed away, these rooms show none of the damage that has ruined the outer chambers. Hidden from view, they can be accessed by a secret door hidden within the kitchen’s warped wainscoting. While it was once well hidden, this secret portal is now glaringly obvious, as the cracked and decaying wood sags, barely clinging to its rusted hinges.
The Emperor’s chambers, secret from even the Princess, hold the weapons and equipment that he would need if he and a few trusted men were to fight their way clear of an enemy-held area. While the cruel Emperor refused to foresee that he might be killed, the perennial rebellions against his rule made it clear that vigilance was needed if he was to retain his throne.
These chambers included a council chamber, equipped with a table and maps of the many places within the Empire; an armory, with several sets of finely-crafted armor and numerous weapons; a wine cellar, where a few ancient bottles now hold vinegar; a well-equipped torture chamber; and a pair of pits for prisoners.
Princess Callia wandered the magical chambers of her bolt-hole, frightened and alone. She expected her daddy to come get her, or one of her maidservants to find her, but none had come, and she had waited for days. She wasn’t supposed to leave before someone came for her, but she was bored and she was frightened.
Poking around in the kitchen, she found a secret her father hadn’t shown her. The Emperor never expected his sweet little girl to find his council chamber, or his armory, or the "pits".
The Fairy Castle bears little sign of it, but it is a product of extremely dark magic. The massive amounts of magical power needed to enchant such a structure and make it endure came from dozens of bloody child sacrifices. The remains of these sacrificial victims were placed within the Fairy Castle, imprisoned in the pits. Restored to horrible unlife by the fell magic of Magnus Magisterius, these undead children were bound to serve the Emperor, soldiers that could never betray their bloodthirsty leader. There they waited, bound and accursed, until they were accidentally released by the innocent exploration of the Princess. Their standing orders specified that they should destroy anyone who disturbed them except the Emperor or his Court Astrologer…
The Emperor’s Fate
Emperor Sentatian and most of his court were assassinated in a subtle poisoning plot, where a multi-part poison was placed in their food. Because the individual portions of the toxin were harmless, the food was successfully slipped past his security measures. Princess Callia was not poisoned because she had been sent to bed before the final fatal dishes were served. More information can be found in the following areas: The Orbis Caelestis of Magnus Magisterius He That Waits at Ye Portalle
The Princess waited in the darkness of the pit, her lifeless eyes gazing at nothingness. It had been a long time, but someday her daddy would come rescue her, she knew it.
He’d promised her that he would.